Football legend Marta, in Sierra Leone, calls for more women decision-makers

06 Sep 2011

Freetown — Five-time FIFA player of the year, Marta Vieira Da Silva, in Sierra Leone Sunday, threw her support behind efforts to involve more women in decision-making positions.

During her two-day visit to the West African nation, the football star and Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) met with university students, civil society groups and young female footballers, and delivered the message: "When women succeed, we all win." 

Marta also met with women’s groups, including female members of parliament, who are lobbying for an increase in the representation of women in parliament from the current 13 percent to a minimum of 30 percent. 

“The strength and wisdom of Sierra Leonean women is the greatest resource of the country,” said Marta. “When I see the will and commitment of these women I am definitely convinced that women’s empowerment is essential for peace and development.”

UNDP is supporting the advocacy agenda led by Sierra Leonean women for a law to be passed in parliament to ensure a 30 percent quota for women before 2012 general elections.

Marta also visited a career center at Fourah Bay College, a UNDP-supported project within the University of Sierra Leone, aimed at supporting young people at the university to find jobs and gain professional experience.

With a mixed group of female and male students, she spoke about her experience in overcoming challenges during her childhood to become the world’s top female football player. “Through my story I want to tell you nothing is impossible,” Marta said. “Keep the motivation, keep the enthusiasm, united we can make a difference.”

UNDP’s work in Sierra Leone includes supporting women and girls, particularly survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, to access justice and security by providing legal aid services at community level.

 “We hope that Marta’s presence will inspire young women who are facing challenges and discrimination,” said Mia Seppo, UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director.

At a reception with national female footballers, former team captain Musu Pele Bangura presented Marta with a Sierra Leone team jersey. Accepting the gift, Marta said, “I have met outstanding current and past players. They are not only great players, they are role models for all women in the country.”

At the end of her visit, Marta watched the male national team, the Leone Stars, defeat Egypt 2-1 in the Africa Nations Cup qualifier in the capital Freetown. She then organized a female match, between Diamond Queens, which she coached, and the Sierra Queens, led by Bangura, which ended in a tie.